Thursday July 18, 2024

Access to Information Act: Two excise officers fined for not making information public

By Asif Mehmood Butt
October 27, 2023
The Punjab Information Commission building. The News/File
The Punjab Information Commission building. The News/File 

LAHORE: The Punjab Information Commission has imposed Rs50,000 fine each on Director Excise and an officer for not making public, information on taxation in posh areas of Lahore under the Access to Information Act.

Delivering the verdict in Shahbaz Akmal vs Director Excise (Region B) Lahore case, the Information Commission said the petitioner had asked for information on the property tax levied on properties in the areas of Region (B) from December 1, 2022 till now.

The details were sought under the Access to Information Act, 2013.

On his request, instead of making the above information public, the Excise Department replied this information is of a personal nature, the commission said. The department sought an exception under Section 13 of the RTI Act.

During the hearing of the case, Shahbaz Akmal told the commission similar information has already been disclosed in two regions of Excise Department – Sargodha and Gujranwala.

In its order, the commission said under subsections (I and J) of Section 4 of the RTI Act, every public body, including government and semi-government organisations, has the responsibility to disclose the said information.

The commission rejected the Excise Department’s request for an exemption and ordered the Director General Excise to make the said information public within seven days. The commission said Director Excise (Region B) Lahore Ahmed Saeed and Excise and Taxation Officer (Public Information Officer) were found guilty of deliberately concealing the said information under Section 15 of the RTI Act. The commission sentenced each of the two officers to fine of Rs50,000.

The commission directed the Accountant General, Punjab, to deduct the fine amount from the salaries of these officers. It ordered the Director General Excise to ensure the said information is made public within seven days, which is the legal and constitutional right of the petitioner.